Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Handsome Furs- Face Control

'Face Control' is apparently a practice in Eastern European club culture wherein people must--through PayPal or other means--give a club/bar money to reserve a table for them but can still face down the doorman, who, as in exclusive bars/clubs across the world, can still turn them away based on appearance. I'm not really sure what significance this has for Handsome Furs and their music. It's on my mind, though, because today is St. Patrick's Day and so all the amateurs will come out to play. They are currently getting sloppy drunk at bars and clubs while I sit here trying to piece together a decent review. I'm fine with this, though. Between the high cost of bars and nonsense like 'face control', being depressed by amateur drunks seems kind of a small reason not to be at a bar tonight.

Still, the fact that Handsome Furs named their second album after this practice has to have some tangential import. It'll have to do, because I've been trying to think of an interesting approach to this album for awhile because I feel like I don't have much to say about it otherwise. "I like it and I recommend it even though it's not as good as Dan Boeckener's main band Wolf Parade or the other Wolf Parade side project, Sunset Rubdown" is the extent of my feeling about the album. Well, here's a little more: Handsome Furs albums are a more electronic take on the kind of stuff Boeckner's Wolf Parade songs sound like, marrying (literally) his yawp of a voice and clangorous guitar work to his wife Alexei Perry's synths and minimalist 80s throwback drum machines. Albums like this define a '4 out of 5' rating in my mind because I have no real problems with them; I enjoy them and would recommend them to other people but yet they don't set my heart aflame.

Anyway, as Alexei Perry--or so I seem to recall reading somewhere--is from Eastern Europe, it makes sense that they would be familiar with the 'face control' concept. All of Eastern Europe has been a fascinating, little discussed area of the world since the end of Communism and it's always a treat to see different aspects of it filtering into our cultural consciousness, whether it be 'face control' ending up on an indie rock album that was released on an American label (but, oddly, recorded by a Canadian and an Eastern European transplant husband-and-wife duo) or the semi-popular S.T.A.L.K.E.R. PC games, which take place in and around the exclusion zone around Chernobyl and reveal a lot about that culture's dreams and nightmares about such Cold War era events. This somehow parallels the mixture of the two sounds I described above--the essentially 80s sound of Perry's electro-pop and Boeckner's modern day guitar shards and rough voice. It doesn't sound Eastern European but much of Face Control is inspired by experiecing that culture.

Too few cross cultural and/or cross genre mixes end up being more than a curiosity or a footnote. I wouldn't call either of the Handsome Furs albums excellent but Face Control is the better of the two, possessing more songs I would describe as "excellent", such 'Radio Kaliningrad' and 'Taking Hotel Arbat Blues.' I can't think of a single thing about Face Control that I don't like and want to talk about...well, the cover is kind of a throwaway, I guess but still. Face Control doesn't strike me as as exceptional. These things happen.

On a side note, it's good to know that indie rock's above average amount of "actually quite good" husband-and-wife music teams is continuing on. Eat your heart out, Thurston Moore & Kim Gordon, Alan Sparhawk & Mimi Parker, Ira Kaplan & Georgia Hubley, Avey Tare & Kria Brekkan, Greg Saunier & Satomi Matsuzaki, et. al.

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